Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Understanding the past, present and future signs of the times

Good morning my friends. Just a reminder that I have set aside our normal reading of Scriptures to look plainly at the events of Jesus life in this final week of his ministry in this world. One of the things he did was teach. The Scriptures tell us that he was in the temple every day teaching the crowds and warning of what was coming. He gave invitations to the common people and warnings to the leaders. He was doing everything he could do in his limited form to win the hearts of the people and to plant the seeds for the future.

One of the most powerful of these final teachings was that of the end times, which we find in Luke 21. To say it was about the end times is not an accurate statement as it is more about making choices. It was provoked by the disciples remarks about the beauty of the Temple. Jesus warned them:

As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.  (Luke 21:6)

He was speaking of the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans which would take place 40 years later, when the city would fall and be destroyed. The disciples wanted to know the signs of this event and it was here that Jesus gave a brief overview. Some people get confused because Jesus jumped around a bit and so they fail to recognize the time-line Jesus gives. The first events:

They will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. (vv. 12-13)

The early persecution of the Church took place and resulted in the gospel message being spread throughout the known world. This would be followed by:

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. (vv. 20-22)

It would be a terrible time. He further warned:

Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. (v. 8)

From that time until now we have lived through many deceptions, of which some of the greatest are happening today throughout the world. The enemy is trying to weaken the Church's resolve to go to the end with Jesus. Jesus went on to describe:

When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away... Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. (vv. 9-11)

These are like birthing pains that must take place as the final day of judgment approaches. Of these great signs from heaven Jesus explains:

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (vv. 25-26)

Obviously we will not have to make any guesses about what is happening in the last part, but even still, man will deceive himself. He will live in his own denial and be lost. Not us though. I love the instruction Jesus gives as to how we need to respond to these signs of his return:

At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (vv. 27-28)

To go hand-in-hand with this last image Jesus gives his final warning on the matter to his followers, including you and me:

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. (vv. 34-36)

It could not be more clear for us as to what the dangers are to us falling away from Jesus. Our hearts are easily weighed down by the anxieties of our life. It is the reason our relationship with Jesus must we real, daily fellowship and communion with him. Only by staying focused on Jesus will we be able to escape the danger of being weighed down. The day is approaching when we will have to stand before Jesus. Will we hear the words "Well done my good and faithful servant", or "Go away, I don't know you"? The day is approaching, let us take this week to reaffirm our love, faith and trust in Jesus and recommit our lives to "stand".

Jesus then took them through the events that were about to unfold.

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